**Original post on Profa Baros's Classroom Blog (6/21/13)**
Last week I introduced Genius Hour to my students, and this week we spent the entire class period researching various ideas. We had a lot of interesting experiences today - some shed light on some of the struggles my students may have and that I need to address and others confirmed how awesome this really is. For week 2, I have two of each to share :)
I have a few students that still aren't sure of what they're supposed to be doing. In fact, one student told me today that he'd rather me just present information and tell him what he was supposed to learn. That would be so much easier. I was a bit taken back by this comment! I was completely honest and explained that this is the problem I have with "traditional" education: we spend thirteen years telling students what they're supposed to know and what they're supposed to do and never give students the chance to figure this out for themselves. So what are they supposed to do once they graduate? Who's going to tell them what to do then? And if they're always looking for someone to tell them what to do and how to think, they'll never reach their full potential and always be limited to what that person wants. I think he got the message, and I encouraged him to figure out who he is, what he wants to be, and what he should learn! That's what Genius Hour is all about.
Multiple students are struggling to break down their questions into researchable items. Later in the period, I had a student that had developed a general question ("What would it take to visit Mexico?", but couldn't figure out where to go with it. I started asking him all sorts of more specific questions regarding transportation, documents, limitations on visiting, etc., and that seemed to help. Another student had a question concerning why time seemed to go slower during a certain class, but couldn't figure out how to research an answer (on the other hand, I just Googled "Why does time pass slower?" and got fascinating results such as a Wikipedia article about time dilation and "10 ways our minds warp time"). How can I better help students through the process of developing questions, developing a plan of action to answer them, and then finding/recording valuable information?
The secret is out! My students know that I'm blogging about their work :) I reminded students of this and said that they were welcome to find it. However, I did not tell them where to find it! Pretty soon, one student, and then a few more found my blog. For a brief period, many of them were reading and laughing at what I'd written about our first week. They seemed genuinely pleased about their work and experience being showcased online. (And, if you're one of my students reading this, I hope you're learning something!) What I found most interesting, though, was that many of them spent quite a bit of time pulling up the pictures of their notebooks and reading what their fellow classmates had written in their notebooks. I hadn't even planned for them to access each others' work, much less expected such an amazing result from doing so! Since names weren't included, it was left up to their best guesses which of their classmates wrote what, but while reading their peers' ideas, some students became interested in questions they hadn't thought of before. One boy in particular read another student's question about how childbirth felt to a girl, thinking it was a bit silly at first, but then spent the rest of the period researching how birth pains could be simulated for a male. While I intended for students to share what they were working on in various ways (like in-class discussion and presentations), I gained an even greater appreciation for the power of student collaboration and following one another as they work through the Genius Hour process. I'll definitely have to make this a priority in the future.
I set much clearer expectations for students today. Last week, even though I gave them the opportunity to research different questions and complete multiple pages in their books about those questions, almost every student wrote about one question and only a few filled the page with notes about the question. I was excited because all of my students had a great in-class experience, but wanted to see more evidence of their experience in their notebooks. Today, I gave them explicit instructions for what I expected: They would be responsible for researching three questions and filling up six pages. On the odd pages of our notebooks (right-hand pages), they would write the main question they were researching on the top of the page, then use Cornell Notes to record the information they find to answer their question and fill the entire page. On the opposite page (even page number), they would write their Reflection, which I was hoping would be at least a half page and include what their reaction to what they researched and learned (Was it interesting or not? Why? Would you want to learn more about this in the future? What does it have to do with culture? etc.). I tried to stress that I know they're learning awesome stuff, so please show me evidence of what they're finding! Since we have a 100-minute class, that gave them over half an hour to work on each of their questions, and most of my students were perfectly happy with it, some even doing more pages!
I have permission from students to share their work again, so I will update this post in the (very) near future to include examples of what they achieved. Once again, I had a class full of geniuses!
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